Northbridge faces a tax increase ballot question concerning the proposed Department of Public Works facility on December 17.
At the December 4 Special Town Meeting, voters rejected a proposal for $3.1 million to purchase and renovate a building for use as a DPW facility.
Since then, however, a number of residents have contacted me and expressed confusion as to why there is now an election on December 17. The December 17 election was scheduled many weeks ago per a state statute time-frame requirement. Ballots have been printed and the polls will be open.
This election is to increase taxes via a Proposition 2 ½ exclusion by an unspecified dollar amount for the purpose of purchasing and renovating a building as a DPW facility. No one knows at this time what the dollar figure is and by how much their taxes will go up if this ballot question is approved. It is a blank check.
Town Meeting sets forth the project and dollar amount, while the election approves the funding and the tax increase. It makes sense therefore, that Town Meeting occur first and then the election.
Historically in Northbridge, if the proposal fails at Town Meeting then the election question is moot and meaningless. The Town Manager and Finance Committee Chairman were both correct in strongly articulating this in 2010 under a similar situation. Officials have, over and over again, rejected the notion of putting the cart (the election with an unknown dollar figure) ahead of the horse (Town Meeting) as such a maneuver while legal, is a political end run.
If the tax increase is approved on December 17, it would be unprecedented for the Town to entertain thoughts of scheduling another Special Town Meeting.
Good government depends upon good and consistent policy, issue to issue and year to year. We should resist trampling upon consistency, proper form and longstanding wisdom.
As one member of the Board of Selectmen, I commit to you that I will not support another Special Town Meeting on this issue.